Oval Talk

Time for RFU to get professional

Oval Talk

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"Oh! what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive!" Walter Scott

The latest twist in the saga that is the Rugby Football Union has seen Martyn Thomas step down as chairman.

Thomas's departure was the main recommendation in the RFU's discipline officer Jeff Blackett's report into the sacking of John Steele last month. The report also cleared Steele of any wrongdoing during his time as the RFU's chief executive.

Thomas stepped down after the RFU council discussed the 52-page report at a four-hour meeting on Sunday morning. And the move leaves English rugby in a farcical position with just 11 weeks left until the World Cup; the RFU currently has no permanent chairman, no permanent chief executive and are still searching for their first performance director.

Oval Talk welcomed the report three weeks ago as there was so much confusion surrounding Steele's exit. And Blackett, who was given the task of finding out of the truth, has described his report as "hard hitting and pulling no punches".

In it Blackett accuses Thomas of leaking information to the media in the build-up to Steele's sacking. The report also criticised Thomas's handling of Board meetings. Blackett went on to say members of the 12-man Board were frequently missing from meetings and the minutes were not recorded correctly.

The report recommended the non-executive members should be removed from the Board as well as the positions which gave them automatic membership of it. But that does not include the RFU's business director Paul Vaughan and Bill Beaumont, a former England captain and vice chairman of the IRB.

At Sunday's meeting there were calls for Thomas to also be removed as the acting chief executive but he will remain in that position until a permanent replacement is found. And despite not signing a new contract Thomas is expected to be given £100,000 compensation.

And Steele, who has been the subject of much criticism over recent weeks, has been found to have acted correctly in almost everything he did. The only question mark in the report was about his decision to spend £500,000 in fees for consultants - but the expenditure was approved by the Board.

What is more, the reports in the media saying Steele had a seven-figure pay-off seem way off the mark. It is thought to be closer to £300,000 as he was still in his probation period.

So, it would appear Steele has done nothing wrong and there have even been calls for him to be reinstated. Whether that will happen is unlikely but the mess Thomas and the Board have left the RFU in is just an embarrassment.

Thomas has become tangled in his own web of lies and deceit. It is good he has gone but only if the RFU can learn from this and become a far more professional organisation.

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